All week long, only one thought kept marching through my head like the Energizer Bunny:
“Must win the HOW World Championship! Must win the HOW World Championship!”
Adrenaline kept coursing through my veins, washing away the throbbing pain in my body. Between the cruel beat down Lee’s personal bodyguard gave me last Saturday night and the constant training I’ve done; I hurt more than I’d ever wanted to hurt. Pain is temporary compared to the lifelong failure associated with choking in a HOW World Title match. I lived through that experience five times too many.
I wasted no time or expense converting my living room into a home gym. I could now stream and study every single Mike Best match in 4K High Definition on my large 85 inch Sony Smart TV using the HOTV app while training on my favorite exercise bike.
I decked out my beautiful rock walls with pictures of former World Champions weaving a tangled web of coarse 97Red yarn pointing back to the HOW World Championship. It looked like I became one of those conspiracy theorists desperately searching for someone’s lost email server. It was a simple reminder of Saturday’s match. Don’t assume your winning, Darin; you’ll die. I couldn’t stop gridding. I’d come too far this time to squander Lee Best’s trust.
Clutter amassed under my feet. I hadn’t put as much care into my house like previous weeks. I was fueled only by the desire of hoisting the World Championship above my head.
Pumping my legs furiously like no tomorrow, I re-watched the Bobby Dean and Mike Best World Championship match intently. No mistakes allowed! The world around me blurred like a foggy Midwest day. Only the World Championship mattered and nothing else.
As Meredith flung open the back door, struggling to carry my groceries; I did not leave my bike once. Must keep training! I can’t skip my cardio session; it would cost me the ultimate goal:
“Must win the HOW World Championship!”
I fixed my eyes on Mike Best blindsiding Bobby Dean. The thought of him doing the same thing in our match entered my mind. I knew I must strike first. I dabbed at my sweat with the dirty towel draping from my bike, continuing to focus on each detail of the match. Exasperated from lugging in all the grocery sacks at once, Meredith nonchalantly made an off kilter comment. I could feel the heat burning from the kitchen as she yelled out apathetically, “Groceries are here…”
I could have made the right decision in Meredith’s eyes, but I didn’t. More important matters weighed on my mind. I couldn’t stop training. I needed to push harder for that sweet 97Red belt to be draped around my waist. It wasn’t just about validating my career. It meant I could afford a pay raise for Meredith and Lexi. It could better our lives all around.
Without a single care in the world about Meredith’s feelings, I asked: “Where’s my steel cup? I need to pull that out before Saturday. If Mike Best bites Bobby Dean’s dick; I expect nothing less.”
Silence! Meredith’s never this quiet. She’s a spitfire never afraid to speak her mind. Each second passed slowly while I continued pumping my legs back and forth on the exercise bike. I never noticed the clapping sound from her heels as she approached me from behind. I locked my eyes on the television, but without a single hesitation, Meredith stormed right in front of it. As I kept bobbing my head back and forth continuing on the match; I blurted out at the top of my lungs “GET OUT OF MY WAY! I NEED TO CONTINUE STUDYING MY OPPONENT.”
Apparently the HOW World Heavyweight Championship didn’t hold the same gravitas to Meredith as it did me. She didn’t waiver. With her arms crossed over her chest, her face glowed bright red. I didn’t care about pissing her off. I needed her to understand what was at stake. I bit my tongue while she yammered on.
“At least I continue to pick up my weight in chores for you. But you’ve stopped caring about Lexi and me.”
BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! She began to sound like the annoying teacher out of the Peanuts cartoons. She had no clue I’d taken this match with her in mind. Trying desperately to tune her haranguing out, I threw in my ear phones. But before I could get comfortable , she yanked my earbuds out and forced me to look her dead in the eye. She continued to lay into me, “You promised to take Lexi and I out for Ice Cream. You forgot to pick us up and I had to lie to her.”
Why does she have to pick now to stir the pot? Now’s not the time. Depleted from the distraction, I carelessly regurgitated my next words as I kept peddling away violently:
“I can’t eat carbs right now. Mike Best doesn’t eat carbs. He only eats a bowl full of cocaine and drinks the tears of his opponents. I eat salads. I drink protein shake and water to reach my peak condition for this World Championship match.”
Her hatred now cut at my soul like a knife cuts butter. Infuriated, her arms fly up in the air. Her tirade continues: “Is that why Lexi’s softball coach called me, huh? You forgot to pick her up from practice. You need…”
Now my blood began to boil like hot water. How dare Meredith disrespect me when I’m dealing with the most important match of our lives. I hated giving up everything this week. It killed me inside. But nothing else matters right now. Only the HOW World Championship matters. I couldn’t hold back anymore. I respond with authority this time:
“Sports are for chumps; I’m competing for the HOW World Championship. It’s a real prize. Not some meaningless participation trophy.”
She clenched her fists tight ready to vex the hell out of me, but her head dropped down, looking to the floor as she meandered off down into my basement. It killed me to be real with her, but it needed to be said.
My schedule commanded my obedience this week. Between my personal training sessions and paid ones, I couldn’t overthink my decision this week. It boiled down to one thought.
“Must win the HOW World Championship!’
I could have let her disappointment cripple me. I could take my eyes off the prize and chase after her. But as I looked around at all the dirty laundry and protein bar wrappers laid kluttered at my feet, I knew I couldn’t stop. But I could do the next best thing.
I dialed up a personal friend determined to fix the problem. As he answered the phone, he acted surprised to hear from me. We exchanged pleasantries over the phone before I asked him my question:
“Shawn, I need a favor. I pissed off my business manager, Meredith. She’s the key to my HOW World Championship victory and I need to make things right. She means the world to me. Can you get me a…fruit basket? Apparently it’s how World Champions’ handle problems in a pinch. I need them to be the lowest hanging and sweetest fruits too.”
I paused as he confirmed he’ll do it and just smile elated he could solve my problems.
“Excellent! Please write her the most eloquently worded apology ever. Maybe throw in some toys for her daughter Lexi and flowers both of them. I need to patch this up fast. Thanks! You’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Finally, I could put all my attention towards training. As my muscles started to twitch with pain, I needed to get onto the next exercise before they started healing. Now it was time for my daily pressure training. I rushed off to the kitchen and grabbed a banana for a snack. It was time to take a shit ton of knees to my face. Now that I could continue on with my daily routine in peace, I let that one thought I’ve had all week continue to echo through my head loudly:
“Must win the HOW World Championship! Must win the HOW World Championship! Must win the HOW World Championship!”
“When I desperately ripped the pen out of Lee Best’s hands to sign the contract for this World Championship match; I knew deep down I might as well have signed my death certificate. Lee Best knows what that beautiful 97Red belt means to me. He took off the safety to his proverbial gun, loaded it, and aimed it straight at my face waiting for me to beg for mercy. He knew if I did; I was one dead mother fucker. In that moment, I returned on his investment of 6 years’ worth of dealing with my petty bullshit.
I signed that contract with a death wish in mind. I’ve worked too hard for this moment. It’s all or nothing now. Time to commit to it. I know Mike Best has wanted to beat me within an inch of my life since I started in HOW. The moment I step inside the ring and fight for the World Championship this Saturday, I can expect nothing less from him.
He’s built his throne on physically and verbally murdering his opponents. I’ve stepped into the ring with him twice. He’s bludgeoned me near death, each blow more vicious than the next. He spews the vilest words slowly crumbling your psyche each minute you stand fighting him in the ring. If you even so much as gain the upper hand against him, he dastardly looks for ways to seize control of a match never afraid to take a shortcut.
He exceeds the reputation he’s built up over his illustrious career. Rather you’ve screwed up yesterday or five years ago; he always makes sure you pay for your crimes. The longer he waits for his day of reckoning; the punishment grows far worse. Only God knows what torture I’ll endure Saturday night because I’m the furthest thing from a model employee.
But I didn’t mince my words, Mike. I said what I meant, and I meant what I said. You’re the hero that HOW wishes had ghosted them after the first Tinder date.
As you continue to ramble on, you sound more like everyone’s toxic ex-girlfriend. You extend the olive branch with half-assed compliments hoping I’m thirsty for attention. You hope I’ll bite so you can gaslight me back into submission.
But your sad, desperate attempts to piss me off won’t work this time. If I give your words one ounce of attention; I’ve given you one inch of the rope. We all know if Mike Best has one inch of that rope; he will tie the noose around my neck and hang me. I watched it happen with Bobby Dean. He came in hot, verbally swinging for the fences. He backed Mike straight into the corner. And no disrespect to Bobby, he buckled under pressure when Mike Best hammered him with the truth. Bobby exposed his soft, cholesterol filled heart. He looked away from the prize, and Mike took advantage. He proudly sunk his teeth into Dean’s dick like any dirty whore would do.
I backed Mike Best into the corner, and I can’t back down even if it means certain death. HOW’s knock off Howard Stern thrives on the attention; it fuels his jealousy and doubles the size of his fragile ego. He drops controversial takes hoping you tune in. But the more he stirs the pot; the effects begin to wear off. When his words hold no power over you, his thirst to suck you back into the shit show causes him to dive into an uncontrollable rage.
It’s that same rage that’s cost him two victories over me. It’s the one weakness I need to exploit a third time to secure the validation I desperately need. While I would love to unleash all my anger against him for all the sins that he committed against me; I cannot do it. It’s the ultimate sacrifice I need to make to win the HOW World Championship.
So bye, Felecia Best! I kicked those shitty ass gaslighting attempts to the curb years ago. I don’t fear your words or your opinions anymore. I fear what happens if I fail to win the HOW World Championship.
It’s the hardest thing for me to surrender, but that HOW World Championship is the world to me, I’ve let my mistakes plague me for 4 years and 1 month reliving all my World Championship failures. Each passing moment my mistakes stick out to me more than when the day I lived them. My body didn’t give out to the pressure. It succumbed due to my own temper and ego.
I exhausted myself night and day until I couldn’t perform at the level my reputation demanded. I failed myself. I lost every opportunity because I fell into the trap. I let people crawl under my skin sucking every ounce of my energy for the meaningless Twitter participation trophy. I coasted right into Scott Stevens and Scottywood levels of choking. I blew my opportunities at the World Championship because I coasted on my convictions, and it killed me every time.
Like a virgin walking into his first sexual experience, I blew my load before I hit the home run. I took my eyes off the prize. It’s why my body surrendered before finishing the job when I fought against Jace Parker Davidson at War Games. It’s why I couldn’t easily stop the same unstoppable tide of Executive Promises cracking my jaw I previously stopped outside HOW. I cared more about winning meaningless Twitter battles and verbal exchanges than I cared about draping that 97Red World Championship around my shoulder.
It’s time to prove I can become the best in this industry. It’s time for me to stop backing down and cowering in the corner. I’m owning my moxie. I’m coming into Saturday’s match more stubborn and defiant than ever. It’s taken six years but it’s about damn time I accept who I am. I’m not the hero who wears capes or has cool superpowers. I’m the hero who gracefully stumbles over the English Language when I think about winning that gorgeous 97Red belt.
If I waiver at all and continue the path of stagnation and choking; It shows I truly don’t value that HOW World Championship. I can’t accept second best anymore. I can’t only rest on my resume of destroying numerous Hall of Famers and legends. I can’t only accept 23 other championships over 3 separate promotions. While those are accomplishments in their own right; it’s never been enough for me just like it’s never been enough for everyone else. I hear it daily when I march down the halls of the locker room:
“Good job on beating the toughest Hall of Famer John Sektor, but you didn’t beat him for the World Championship.”
“Congratulations you’ve won that coveted ICON Championship three times. Now go validate those reigns with a World Championship reign.”
“You only talk about your 23 Fisher Price championships because you’ve choked so much for the real deal. You’ll never be a World Champion.”
Hearing those words fuels my determination to win this Saturday. The HOW World Championship means everything to me and it’s why I continue to take my beatings proudly. I begrudgingly took MVW’s offer to hone my craft so I could win it. I killed the Zion brand off and reinvented myself even if it meant destroying the 14 years of trials, tribulations, and memories I kept alive so I could get one more shot. It’s the sole reason I stormed into HOW my first night and pissed in Mike Best’s goddamn yard to claim my stake.
So, give me your worst, Mike. I welcome it! Spend that little extra effort peppering those knees over sharpening your next verbal dagger. Don’t hold back, cave my skull in with your knee. I want you to bring the best of your best. I will defy you and the odds and continue to give it my all in that ring even if bring me certain death. I’m that desperate to make this opportunity count.
Saturday night will be the toughest bump in my road to redemption. I need to earn my stripes. It’s time to validate every sacrifice, every struggle, and every sleepless night I’ve had. It’s time to earn the most important accomplishment to my career.
The thought of 97Red will push me to new heights. It’s what fuels me to push towards the finish line! I’ve been training my ass off preparing for the most hellacious match I’ve ever wrestled. I’ve studied the tapes, pushed my body to its limits, and locked my sights on that belt. I’m ready for all you throw at me, Mike. I don’t care if I wake up in my bed or a hospital bed, I want to feel that sweet, stinging pain waking up next to 97Red in the morning. It will make my 14-year ascent to the top worth every moment.
I’m not preparing a rolodex of excuses or spinning the story. I’m not preparing a victory speech. I’m preparing to go to war with the best professional wrestler on planet earth today over the best prize. This is the fight of my life. It’s everything I deserve, and I need to make Lee Best proud. I need to make the fans and locker room proud. I need them to push me forward as I finally seize my redemption.
On Saturday night, I won’t need to create a new nickname; As I proudly raise the World Championship over my head with tears streaming down my eyes, the fans will christen me with it:
The Hero of High Octane!
When the match is over, and the dust settles, even if you knee me straight to my deathbed. As I take my final breaths, I promise I will make damn sure the headlines will forever read the corpse of Darin Matthews beat HOW’s Greatest Hall of Famer Mike Best for the HOW World Heavyweight Championship.”